December 9, 2022

Cave Rock leads eight in American Pharoah

Cave Rock blazes home in the Del Mar Futurity (Photo © Benoit Photo)

Cave Rock has established himself as a pro tem leader in the two-year-old male division, recording spectacular victories over maiden special weight and Del Mar Futurity (G1) rivals in two career starts, and the talented Bob Baffert-trained colt will stretch to two turns and make his final tune-up for the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile (G1) when he lines up for Saturday’s $300,000 American Pharoah (G1) at Santa Anita.

Eight are entered for the 1 1/16-mile race, which will award a free berth to the Nov. 4 Juvenile at Keeneland as part of the Breeders’ Cup Challenge series.

By Arrogate, Cave Rock registered a 104 Brisnet Speed rating when wiring maiden special weight foes by a six-length margin in mid-August, and the dark bay came back to thrash opponents in the Del Mar Futurity by 5 1/4 lengths, earning a 105 Speed figure that easily tops Saturday’s field. Juan Hernandez retains the mount.

Baffert has four entered, including last-out debut winners Gandolfini and National Treasure. Gandolfini, a son of freshman sire Justify, won at first asking from just off the pace at Los Alamitos as the odds-on favorite on Sept. 17. Edwin Maldonado has the call. National Treasure exits a wire-to-wire triumph at Del Mar on Sept. 3, and Ramon Vazquez will be back up on the Quality Road colt.

Hejazi, second as the favorite in both starts, completes the Baffert quartet. A $3.55 million two-year-old training purchase, the Bernardini colt shows a recent five-furlong bullet work in preparation, and Mike Smith rides.

Grade 3-placed Man Child and last-out maiden claiming winner Macnamara will try to provide resistance to the Baffert contingent. Maidens Odonata and Skinner complete the cast.